Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Malaysia Take Four: Camp 5

Alright, so after a bit of rowing/drifting down the river and checkin' out a village along the way, it was back in the canoes again. And, since the water levels were so low, we "got" to push them approximately every 2.3 seconds. All part of the experience.
Eventually, we made it to the bank of where we'd stop for lunch and then start up the hike for the day. That's Naoto to my right; solo traveler coincidentally from Tokyo, Japan and winner of most unique Japanese I've ever met.
I think that's a liger on his shirt.Ready to start the jungle trek to Camp 5, carrying all our gear. Hiring carriers is such a cop out. Lame.
My favorite guide, Eugene. Half man, half myth, all muscle.
Suspension bridge - whaaaatttt!?!
Tour guide, Richard... the craziest combination and pure brawn and passion for the environment, ever!
... it's off to camp we go!
3 hours later, WE MADE IT!
I just realized I haven't properly introduced you to the wonderful people we spent 5 days of pain, glory, and memories with. They were a group of seven Malaysians that live on the mainland in the capital, Kuala Lumpur. They've done a few 'adventure' trips together and this was one they had booked for almost a year. Wong booked it, and the rest came along for the ride having next to no idea what they were really getting into. Although some of the hikes were beyond their ability/interest level, they were a TOTAL blast and we couldn't have asked for a better crew to join with for the adventures.
(From left to right): Liew (late 20's into shopping and walking), Liu (30's into light hiking and shopping), Wong (the organizer and most card core; into half marathons and fun runs), Low (late 20's into the outdoors, great personality and sense of humor), Mey (30's fun 7-10km kind of girl, super sweet, married to an Indian man who she left in the dust for this trip;) ), Mendy (hilariously cute and the drive of an ox, married to Lim) and last but certainly not least is Uncle Lim (the biggest personality of the group, great (albeit LOUD) laugh, always finding a way to make others laugh, possibly more deserving of the "paparazzi" title than myself). We immediately threw our bags into the communal sleeping area and ran to the river. No swimsuits? No problem!
My favorite picture of the entire trip.
Refreshing and clean water.
Gunung Mulu is my playground.

Regression is the best medicine.
View from Camp 5, not too shabby!

While we were playing in the river, Larry and the other tour guides were hard at work making our dinner.

Uhhhh - I'm ready! Where IS everybody?
Our digs for two nights. Big, open air, communal sleeping area: LOVED IT!
Beautiful butterflies... and Julie ain't too shabby either!
Another group of hikers from mainland Malaysia used this area for their five times a day prayers AND macarena practice. HI-larious.
Oh, Naoto. Watermelon and rice don't go to together... in any culture.
But green pancakes and eggs most certainly do!
Me and tour guide Richard, "the man." He has been and will be doing the same hike through the jungle and the Pinnacles nearly every day for the next... eternity? Awesome job and an individual I will never forget. Thanks!

Malaysia Take Three: Gunung Mulu Caves

You know how I love my maps! Orientation, alas. From Kuching, we headed to Gunung Mulu National Park, which means we had to fly into Miri first, then take a 'lil chopper into the national park (marked in red). Access to the park is via plane or boat only. Sweetest part of the flights? Free/included soy milk boxes!

As you can see, it's a relatively mountainous area with lots of rivers and caves. The highest mountain in Malaysia is just east of the Sarawak border in Sabah. Trust me, we tried to work in a hike there as well, but logistics were not in our favor.

Looking over the 'big smoke' of Kuching...

into the the protected and heavily forested Gunung Mulu. We (and by we I mean Julie and I gave her money) booked a cheap tour on the internet in advance by tagging on with a group of mainland Malaysians. I kind of wanted the details for the trip to be a mystery and let Julie take the reigns on this one, allowing myself to take in the the whole experience without much for expectations.

"Hmmm, we don't really remember you, but just get in this car and we'll sort it out" - Larry the tour guide. Excellent start.

We made it! Let the five day caving, jungle trekking, hiking, and boating tour begin!

Accomodation expectations: exceeded! After camping in Bako where we got to stuff our bags in musty bathroom and shower in freezing water in the pitch black, this was a VAST improvement!

We had time to throw our bags in the room, then head off immediately to the Deer and Langs show caves.

Sweet plants and creatures in every hidden corner. This picture is compliments of Lim (more on him, later).
Hey there, lil buuuuuuddy!

Deer/Bat Poo cave.

Check out the profile of famous historical man to the right... see him, see him?

Abe Lincoln! Hey 'Blinkin'? Nah, I said, Abe Lincoln! (the first reader to Name That Movie gets a "special treat" from yours truly!)

I realize it's hard to tell from this super low quality pic, but it's a glowworm. These bad boys make it possible for the cave to be a World Heritage site.

Langs Cave.

The "bat exodus"; 3 MILLION bats, 12 different species, come out at dusk and make this crazy ribbon/dragon shape as the enter and exit the cave. Incredible.

The next morning, we embarked on our first boating experience. Expectations: exceeded!

Quick stop at a local village as we row/walk/push down the river.

Next stop: Cave of the Winds. It was windy.

I kind of thought this formation was gonna slap me.

I heart butterflies.

Outside Clearwater Caves.

Cleansing in the sacred water. Apparently a good thing to do before the massive Pinnacles hike we had planned the following day.

And, 'unofficially' I got cleansed up outside the cave in this refreshing little river before boarding our canoes again.